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Why cooking is first and foremost an act of mercy

cooking friends

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Marzena Devoud - published on 08/27/22

"There’s a real spiritual meaning in the act of cooking," says the friar. How can we recover it?

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Baking a cake, mixing the dough, kneading, measuring, baking … Preparing food can be soothing. However, it can also quickly turn into a chore. The growing popularity of simple, ultra-fast recipes, ranging from one-dish meals to dishes made with no more than three ingredients, is a striking illustration of this.

“Of course, these recipes are useful, but the efficiency approach deprives us of something essential,” Dominican friar Patrick-Marie Bozo, who regularly organizes sessions called “The Joy of Food” at the Sainte-Baume shrine in southern France, told Aleteia. “Like praying, cooking is first and foremost an act of mercy.Moreover, there is a link between these two activities. In the Gospel, Jesus likes to reveal himself during meals: from Cana to the Last Supper, there is no shortage of examples. Even when he was resurrected, he still wanted to grill fish.”

Cooking, having a meal together, sitting around the table: it’s all much more than just eating. “There’s a real spiritual meaning in the act of cooking as well as in the act of savoring a dish in the company of others. Unfortunately, we have lost this sense,” says the Dominican. So, how can we find it again and motivate ourselves to get back behind the stove? Here are some inspiring ideas:

1COOKING HELPS US STAY TOGETHER

Cooking allows us to feel connected to each other. “Cooking forges a real bond. In a way, it forces us to stay together. Unity among family, friends or community is achieved at the table. It’s a foundation,” says Brother Patrick-Marie. Consequently, it helps to bring loved ones closer together. By preparing a meal for a particular person, we show them that they’re important to us. It’s an act of love and support, a form of attention that significantly enriches the bond of a relationship.

2COOKING MEANS TAKING CARE OF THE OTHER PERSON

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While food meets a need for survival, it also brings comfort. Thus, it’s not uncommon, when a person is going through an ordeal, for those close to them to prepare a favorite dish. It’s an expression of attention and tenderness that sometimes conveys love for the other person much better than words of consolation.

“If love is wanting to do good to someone, cooking is a first act of love. As soon as you cook for the other person, you can only ‘do good,'” said award-winning chef Olivier Roelinger in an interview with Aleteia.

3COOKING MEANS FEEDING YOUR SOUL

Food is a gift from God. To cook is to enjoy God’s creation. This is a reality that we should not lose from sight. Preparing a dish for your loved ones is a moment of contemplation and gratitude. It’s also a moment spent with God. He’s the one who gives us the strength to cook the best we can. He’s the one who makes sure that we’re not too afraid to mess up our recipe. If God is present in all the details of daily life, as we believe, he’s also present in the kitchen, one of the most elementary acts of life. As St. Teresa of Avila said, “God is in your pots and pans; that’s where he’s waiting for you.”

4COOKING IS ABOUT CREATING COMMUNITY

Cooking creates unity and fosters belonging to a community.

“For us Dominicans, who are preachers and therefore in constant motion, it’s very important to cook and to get together for meals. This allows us to remain in touch. When we’re ‘stuck’ at the table because we cannot leave it at any time, it obliges us to be attentive to each brother, to take care of each other, to be considerate towards all those around the table,” says Brother Patrick-Marie.

He revealed that there is even a rule, that of the “one dish”:

“Regularly, with all the brothers, we have to eat the same dish, whereas in daily life there’s a certain choice. Sharing something in common is very precious. It’s an act of communion which, for me, brings us closer to Heaven, where we will be ‘nourished’ by God and the charity of others. Bound to one another, we will all be at the same table.”

All you have to do is to plan the “cooking” time in your schedule. Now you have all the reasons you need to get started!

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